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J Spinal Disord. 2000 Oct;13(5):444-50.

The relationship between disc degeneration, facet joint osteoarthritis, and stability of the degenerative lumbar spine.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Dokkyo University School of Medicine, Tochigi, Japan.


Degenerative processes in the disc and facet joints affect the stability of the motion segment. The exact relations among disc degeneration, facet joint osteoarthritis, and the kinematics of the motion segment are not well defined in the literature. Magnetic resonance imaging and functional radiography of the lumbar spine were analyzed to examine the relations among segmental instability, facet joint osteoarthritis, and disc degeneration in patients with degenerative disorders of the lumbar spine. Seventy consecutive patients (mean age, 46 years) had both magnetic resonance imaging and flexion and extension radiographs of the lumbar spine. The lumbar instability was classified into abnormal tilting on flexion, rotatory instability in the sagittal plane, and translatory instability. Translatory instability was subdivided into anterior, posterior, and anteroposterior translatory instability. Disc degeneration as seen on T2-weighted sagittal images was classified into five grades. Facet joint osteoarthritis as seen on axial T1-weighted images was divided into four grades. This study revealed that the kinematics of the lumbar motion segment are affected by disc degeneration and facet joint osteoarthritis. Abnormal tilting movement on flexion and anteroposterior translatory instability both had negative associations with facet joint osteoarthritis. However, anterior translatory instability was positively associated with disc degeneration and facet joint osteoarthritis. Rotatory instability in the sagittal plane and posterior translatory instability were not associated with disc degeneration and facet joint osteoarthritis.

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